My mail box has filled up this morning with reports that the Bishop of Fort Worth, Most Rev. Michael Olson, who was recently consecrated and installed in his see in November 2013 at a mere 47 years of age, has “banned” celebrations of Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the chapel of Fisher More College.
The source of these reports seems to be the blog Rorate Caeli, which provides a copy of the letter that Bp. Olson sent to Mr. Michael King, who is the President of Fisher More College.
Here is the letter, which I found at the aforementioned blog:
None of us are privy to the conversation, mentioned by the bishop in his letter, that took place on 24 February. I have no idea what the tone of that conversation was or how many conversations took place.
However, I am appalled at the tone of the Bp. Olson’s letter to Mr. King. Frankly, it reminds me of a note an authoritarian seminary rector would pin on the mailroom bulletin board about student attire or lights-out time, rather then gentle pastoral solicitude of a diocesan bishop in the era of Pope Francis. I am shocked at the suggestion that this decision is taken for the sake of the souls of the students and the president himself, as if the Extraordinary Form were somehow spiritually harmful.
That said, what we don’t know about this situation could fill volumes.
For example, I discern in the bishop’s second point, the one about his granting faculties, the possibility that the priest who had been saying Mass at Fisher More on a regular basis may not have had any faculties at all, from any bishop or religious superior. I suspect that there is more to that poorly phrased second point than meets the eye.
Also, while some Catholic college and university chaplaincies also have the canonical designation as a parish (e.g., St. Paul’s at the University of Madison), Summorum Pontificum doesn’t seem to apply as clearly. The Motu Proprio doesn’t seem to apply to college chapels and chapels on military bases. That said, the spirit of both Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae communicate something far different from the tone, at least, of the bishop’s letter.
Again, what we don’t know about this situation could fill volumes. I, at least, don’t know who the priests were who were saying that Mass for the students at Fisher More. Were they of the SSPX or some independent group? Were they preaching things that were improper (e.g., attacking Pope Francis from the pulpit, directly attacking the Novus Ordo as invalid)?
More will come out, and soon.
In the meantime, it is hard to imagine why a letter with such a menacing tone would be sent to a layman about something which soon-to-be St. John Paul II described as a “legitimate aspiration”. You will recall that Bl. John Paul asked, nay rather, required by his apostolic authority, that respect be shown to those who desire the traditional forms of the Roman Rite (cf. Ecclesia Dei adflicta, 6c).
My first hope and prayer, and petition to the Guardian Angels of those involved, is for cool heads and a positive resolution to this conflict so that the students and staff of Fisher More will be able to have their legitimate aspirations respected according to the will of St. John Paul and Benedict XVI.
The Moderation Queue is ON.
A priest friend forwarded information from HIS priest friend in Dallas. Thus, I will edit a great deal and use bullet points. These things either happened or they didn’t and can be verified one way or another:
- In May a prof of FMC (Fisher More College) gave a talk and denied aspects of Vatican II
- The FSSP priests withdrew their services at FMC some time ago.
- Taylor Marshall, married with several children, resigned his job at FMC without another job.
- At Thanksgiving, 2013, Fr. Nicholas Gruner, the suspended Fatima Priest, said Mass at FMC.
- These things took place when the Diocese of Fort Worth was vacant.
- “This is NOT about hatred for the TLM.”
All of these points (except the last, which was an opinion) suggest dysfunction which the new bishop needed to address.
It may indeed be that this is not about “hatred for the TLM”. If that is the case, then Bp. Olson will surely want to make that clear in some way.
One commentator, below, observed that the bishop said that students could go to a parish, off-campus, where the TLM is offered, thus suggesting that he doesn’t have a problem with the TLM itself.
I hope that is the case. The tone of the bishop’s letter certainly fueled that suspicion. Getting some of the details out will help diffuse some of this tension about an “attack by a bishop on the TLM”. It may not be that at all, though I still scratch my head about this.
As I said above, what we don’t know can fill volumes, that it will swiftly come out, and that we must must must pray for cooling heads and the help of our angelic companions.
From a source in a diocesan office Somewhere In The English Speaking World, edited and with my emphases and comments:
This morning I asked our excellent team of orthodox canon lawyers to comment on the situation at Fisher More as reported by Rorate. Here are their thoughts:
Essentially they said the whole matter centers on the fact that Masses for the school are held in an oratory… [that's why I raised the issue of "parish", above] because of this, they said the bishop is probably on solid ground despite the fact that they “took an immediate dislike of the bishop when reading the decree.”
Canon 1225 states that “All sacred celebrations can be performed in legitimately established oratories except those which the law or a prescript of the local ordinary excludes or the liturgical norms prohibit.”
Everything that happens within oratories are subject to regulation by the local ordinary. Because the local ordinary can lawfully regulate, restrict, or eliminate the celebration of the Mass or any of the sacraments in any oratory in his diocese, our canonists said that he most likely can restrict which form of the Mass is celebrated, because “he who can do the greater can do the lesser.” If you can prohibit Mass outright, the principle in law would suggest that you certainly can prohibit one form of the celebration. Furthermore, this is in a similar vein of regulating activities in Oratories with stipulations — for instance, “the Mass may only be celebrated in this oratory when some of the Christian faithful are present,” or “the Mass may only be celebrated in this oratory if extraordinary ministers of holy communion are not used.” [That's gonna happen!]
Again, the whole thing here hinges upon the fact [presumed] that the ordinary is regulating the activities in an oratory. (If there was a parish church across the street from Fisher More, and the pastor gave approval for the priests of the college to celebrate the vetus ordo their every day, the bishop could not prevent it because the situation would fall under the norms of Summorum and UE). [My point, above.]
There is some doubt about his ability to differentiate between the forms… and hopefully ED [Ecclesia Dei?] will swoop in and issue a clear statement…. but we’ll just have to see. [Don't hold your breath. And... I must add... it isn't always a good idea to ask when you don't know the answer in advance.]
If the oratory at Fisher More is really a private chapel instead of an oratory (unlikely but technically possible), Canon 1228 — which governs the sacraments in chapels — is even more restrictive: “Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1227, the permission of the local ordinary is required for Mass or other sacred celebrations to take place in any private chapel.”
There you have more grist for the mill.
This, from a person who wrote to the PCE about the situation for the chapel of a Catholic college:
UPDATE 4 March:
Taylor Marshall, mentioned in this dust-up, has made a statement on his Facebook page. HERE. Some of it:
For the record, I resigned as Chancellor of the College at the beginning of June of 2013—only days after our seventh baby was born. I had no job prospects and no income. I did it for the sake of conscience. I felt it would be a danger to my soul to remain at Fisher More College.
I resigned when moral, theological, and financial discrepancies came to light regarding the presidency of Michael King. I was an ex officio member of the Board so I knew what others did not. From May to early June of 2013, five of the eight College Board Members also resigned for two reasons:
Rorate Caeli has just released their sensational “exclusive” report on how the new Bishop of Fort Worth is persecuting the traditional Latin Mass in the person of Michael King. They included the (private) letter of Bishop Olson to Michael King and offered their speculation.
This controversy created by Rorate Caeli with the help of Michael King’s letter is not about the Latin Mass or Summorum Pontificum.
As one who loves and prays the Latin Mass, please don’t curse or blame Bishop Olson for this one. He is a new bishop who inherited a TOUGH pastoral problem. Pray for him. And if you love the Latin Mass, don’t be so quick to judge the bishops or cite canon law. Sometimes there are things behind the scenes that you don’t know.